Not knowing that DAC its really hard for me to say but at about $2k or a little under there are a number of DAC's I would put in the upper echelon such as a Tranquility SE and PDX. The Metrum is about $1K but you need something like an Audiophellio 2 or Off-Ramp to really unlock it and that raises the price to about that level.
Shameless plug - I have a level 1 USB only PDX available for $1.8K if you or anyone is interested:
I am in Australia though so the cost of getting it to the US where most people seem to be could be high.
What do you mean by "better?" What aspect of the Simaudio is lacking and what sonic attributes do you want to accentuate? We all value different things, so if Esoteric's sound lights your fire, Audio Note isn't going to cut it, etc.
I would like to know what would give me everything the Sim does and more, dynamics etc etc.
There is a lot of variety in how DACs sound. You might just need a different flavor of DAC, not necessarily a better or more expensive one. I think the mhdt DACs are very good values and a great place to start to set a baseline to see if more is needed.
If you like your Simaudio CD player you could look at the two higher end Simaudio DAC's.
I've had Simaudio. It's not hard to beat IMO. I've got a MF V-DAC that does it for I don't know how much currently--$300?
Hard to beleive that the MF beats the Sim, which is a darn good player in itself.
DACs are intersting in that I find that very good performance can be had for not much these days most likely as a result of increased maturity associated with a large commercial market for products that use DACs. High end audio is a drop in the bucket compared to the overall market and applicability of DACs these days in computers and various digital music devices. Not to say all are good or great, but many are even by most digital audiophile standards. My $300 (used) mhdt Constantine DAC continuously amazes me how well it performs even in comparison to some of the most expensive dacs out there that I have heard. I also have an mhdt Paradisea that cost just a tad more and is also very musical.
as a probably-worthless aside, my $59-on-ebay muse audio mini hifi dac (which i've crowed about on these forums) uses the exact same dac and opamps as the op's $1500 simaudio. i know there's more to a dac's sound than just the chip, but i'd actually be curious to compare the two. i do agree with arnettpartners that the mf v-dac is a genuine giant-killer.
I have a few tracks on my music server that I recorded about 5-6 years ago during my initial recent foray into computer audio. I used an audioquest stereo mini to dual phono analog IC into my Denon CD recorder. The source was various Real Player live music streams. Then I ripped the tracks from recorded CD to music server as lossless .wav using my standard process.
This was using a very compact but decent quality Dell laptop from about 10 years ago or so.
This was not reference quality source material, but the results are quite good and very musical compared the rest of my music library given that they were produced using the most primitive approach I have applied in recent years. One would be hard pressed to question their quality overall, though dynamics are perhaps a tad compressed.
Easily in the same league or perhaps even better than the best home cassette recordings one might have made using earlier analog home technology. CLearly superior at least in terms of noise levels.
SO I guess my point is we are way better off these days in regards to affordable yet very good quality home (digital) audio than ever before. Its a great time to be both a music lover and audiophile!
+ 1 on MF V-DAC ...very very good for the money
FWIW I like the 260D better than a $4,000 Meridian I once owned. If you like the basic big boned presentation of the 260D you may flip over the 650
For less than 2k the Burson conductor with the ESS SABRE32 Dac chip seems promising. It acts as a preamp too.
I'd suggest picking up a well-reviewed sub $500 DAC (e.g. V-DAC, a15.2, Bifrost, DL3, etc.), listen to it for a while and then use it as a baseline when auditioning more expensive DAC's.
Thanks everyone for responding. I'm leaning towards the Bifrost. If it doesn't
work out for me I can always send it back.
Two really good Dacs I've heard lately are the Micromega Mydac and the Wyred Udac. I think they are around $400.
Never heard the Bifrost, but I'm currently auditioning their Gungnir. It's extremely impressive. And at $750 (without USB, $850 with), it's a stunning value.
(Merlin Master VSM's and ARS-Sonum Filarmonia / Mac Mini and Audirvana Plus software)